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Founding Director, Modern War Institute, United States Military Academy West Point

Liam Collins is the executive director of the Madison Policy Forum, a senior fellow with New America, and a permanent member with the Council on Foreign Relations. He is co-editor of the recently released Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations.

Colonel (retired) Collins served in the U.S. Army for 27 years. As a career Special Forces officer, he conducted multiple operational and combat deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, South America, and the Horn of Africa. Liam retired from the military in 2019 as the founding Director of the Modern War Institute and the Director of the Department of Military Instruction at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Previously he served as General (retired) Abizaid’s executive officer for his Secretary of Defense appointment as the Senior Defense Advisor to Ukraine, and as the director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

The author of dozens of articles and reports related to terrorism, conflict, and innovation, Liam’s work has been cited by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security & Counterterrorism, the White House Press Secretary, The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, ABC News, Fox News, NPR, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Liam’s military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal (with “V” device for valor), Army Commendation Medal (with “V” device for valor), Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Sapper Tab, Master Parachutist Badge, and Military Free Fall Badge with Bronze Star (for combat jump). An accomplished athlete and coach, he has competed as an athlete and coached teams in different sports at multiple world championships. He won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition in 2007 and was selected as the Army’s Coach of the Year in 2011. He also has two multi-million dollar winning thoroughbred racehorses named after him.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (Aerospace) from the United States Military Academy, and a Master’s in Public Affairs and a PhD from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.


  • 2016–present
    Member, Council on Foreign Relations
  • 2021–present
    Senior Fellow, New America
  • 2019–present
    Executive Director, Madison Policy Forum
  • 2015–2019
    Director, Modern War Insitute, United States Military Academy - West Point
  • 2018–2019
    Director, Department of Military Instruction, United States Military Academy - West Point
  • 2015–2018
    Visiting Assistant Professor, Princeton University
  • 2016–2018
    Executive Officer, Senior Defense Advisor to Ukraine
  • 2013–2016
    Director, Defense & Strategic Studies Program, United States Military Academy - West Point
  • 2009–2012
    Assistant Professor, Political Science, United States Military Academy - West Point
  • 2010–2012
    Director, Combating Terrorism Center, United States Military Academy - West Point
  • 2005–2007
    Chief of Current Operations, United States Special Operations Command
  • 2000–2004
    Troop Commander, United States Army Special Operations Command


  • 2014 
    Princeton University, PhD
  • 2009 
    Princeton University, MPA
  • 1992 
    United States Military Academy, BS


  • 2021
    Staff Rides 2.0: A Non-Traditional Take on an Old Army Problem, Teaching and Learning the West Point Way
  • 2021
    Routledge Handbook on U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations,
  • 2020
    Dangerous Myths: How the Crisis in Ukraine Explains Future Great Power Conflict, Modern War Institute Report
  • 2020
    A Leader’s Guide to Conducting Research Staff Rides, Modern War Institute Report
  • 2019
    Iraq, 2003-2011: Succeeding to Fail, Perspectives on the American Way of War: The U.S. Experience in Irregular Conflict,
  • 2019
    Can Volunteer Forces Deter Great Power War? Evidence from the Baltics, Journal of Strategic Security
  • 2019
    Iraq, 2003-2011: Succeeding to Fail, Small Wars and Insurgencies
  • 2019
    Welcome to the Jungle: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Colombia, Modern War Institute Report
  • 2018
    Using Digital Textbooks to Improve Student Learning: Lessons for Military Educators, Journal of Military Learning
  • 2018
    Analyzing the Russian Way of War: Evidence from Its 2008 Conflict with Georgia, Modern War Institute Report
  • 2018
    The Fog of Russian Information Warfare, Perceptions Are Reality: Historical Case Studies of Information Operations in Large-Scale Combat Operations
  • 2017
    The Taming of the Tigers: An MWI Contemporary Battlefield Assessment of the Counterinsurgency of Sri Lanka, Modern War Institute Report
  • 2016
    How the CT Community Failed to Anticipate the Islamic State, Democracy and Security
  • 2012
    Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?, Combating Terrorism Center Report